New Land Plaza: You Can’t Beat a New York Original
Canal Street Research Association
Speculative research on the shifting landscapes of Canal Street, featuring works by Ming Fay
Wednesday, March 1st from 6-8pm [RSVP]
Wednesdays – Saturdays, 12-6 pm
New Land Plaza: You Can’t Beat a New York Original looks at the spatial effects of the criminalization of informal markets and the contemporary repercussions this has on sidewalks and across the facades of Lower Manhattan. Over the course of the exhibit, Canal Street Research Association will attempt to “bootleg” a historic Canal Street counterfeit bust, by tracing the bust’s historical antecedents in order to understand current-day conditions. Anchored in Ming Fay’s seminal Monumental Fruit public artwork honoring street vendors, the archival and speculative research for this re-staging takes various modes: resurfacing of Fay’s proposals and artworks, creating a modular display system in collaboration with architectural collective common room, and pursuing an active intervention on Storefront’s facade. Canal Street Research Association is currently offering Storefront as ad space to mimic the increasingly frequent Lower Manhattan phenomenon that prioritizes buildings as billboards. This gesture attempts to invert the typical flow of corporate funding by redistributing any resources accrued through this experiment to support on the ground advertisers for luxury fashion houses: shanzhai luxury vendors themselves.
Canal Street has long been the epicenter of counterfeit goods in New York City—a thoroughfare cutting through historically immigrant neighborhoods that has become a destination where tourists, as well as New Yorkers, engage with a unique economy. For some time, this confluence of global trade routes has been made possible by a clandestine setup: ground-floor storefronts that operated as NYC souvenir shops up front, but held secret compartments for bootleg luxury merchandise in the back. This slippery meeting of legitimate and illegitimate, real and fake, has been a guiding line of inquiry for Canal Street Research Association, a fictional office entity set up by poetic research unit Shanzhai Lyric in 2020. “Shanzhai” is a Chinese neologism that has come to mean bootleg or fake. The concept of shanzhai offers a different mode of thinking about authorship, unsettling understandings of property, theft, and the traditional flow of economic exchange. Canal Street is one site where the embrace of shanzhai concepts has enabled informal modes of commerce to survive within an increasingly hostile environment. Canal Street Research Association employs the bootleg as a method of re-staging, and therefore more closely examining, complex urban phenomena that may be overlooked due to their unofficial or illicit nature.